(Photo courtesy of Reggie Aquara)

Reggy Aquara: A Blurry Depth, in Sharp Focus

MARCH 24, 2015

Reggie Aquara developed his curious Rorschach-like paintings because he wasn’t satisfied with the results of his more realist early work. (Photo courtesy of Reggie Aquara)

Reggie Aquara is an artist of the cerebral kind. Though his work does not, by any means, shy away from forms of emotional explicitness, the artist is more interested in exploring the relationship between art and the human mind.

Though not all of his pieces do so, Reggie’s most characteristic approach — and as such, the style he is most known for — are his inkblot-style works.

The Bandung-based artist’s particular style was something that grew out of his boredom of his previous, more realist approach. Though technically satisfied, Reggie felt there was a depth missing in his pieces prior — a “depth” issue that he solved almost literally when he discovered how to mesh the inkblot visuals of the Rorschach test with his realist paintings and drawings.

Intriguingly, Reggie admits to not even being familiar with the Rorschach test prior to the creation of his first inkblot-style painting. Only after viewers and fellow artists began pointing it out did Reggie realize how much he could take from Rorschach inkblots to provide him with new inspirations.

Reggie also admits to being inspired by childhood schoolworks where the same approach — drawing on one side of a paper and then folding it together to create a mirror image — might have been the catalyst to his characteristic approach.

Since 2004, Reggie has taken part in countless art and design exhibitions as well as workshops, where his luminous art has garnered him a good number of fans.

Some of his most notable moments include participating in “Recurring Spaces — Bandung Singapore Displaced” at Bandung’s Common Room ID; “Steallife” at Bandung’s Soemadja Gallery; “Reality Effects” at the National Gallery in Jakarta; the “Recent Art from Indonesia: Contemporary Art-Turn, S Bin Art Plus” exhibition in Singapore; and more recently in 2013, “Fabulous Facade” at the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra, as well as a joint exhibition at Kuala Lumpur’s Arterlier Gallery.

His realist approach, the 33-year old Reggie says, not only took too long, but often left him unsatisfied artistically. Then one day he came across some leftover paints and two same-sized canvases. By bringing together the surfaces of those two canvases, Reggie discovered a new aesthetic that he adopted and developed as his own.

His new approach resulted in pieces that were, in his words, “blurry,” whose faded feel added depth that not only looked good but forced viewers to adapt a new perspective. “People had to ‘read’ the drawings and paintings differently with this particular optical effect,” Reggie says.

(Photo courtesy of Reggie Aquara)

Ever since his first solo exhibition at Jakarta’ Gallery Rachel in 2012, Reggie has sustained that perspective. “For me, the symmetrical effect that this style lends is most interesting. I consider [the Rorschach test] a symbol that forces the left and right sides of the brain to work together, which therefore forces viewers to compare the left and right sides of the paintings, which leads to wild forms of imagination,” Reggie explains.

His point of interest, specifically, lies in seeing just how different viewer contexts result in different imaginations.

“If we evaluate it, the quality of people’s imagination has changed so much,” he says. “Information technology and the growth of the visual world these days has changed people’s mind-set and opinion very much — a lot of the times, instantaneously; whether it is the control social media has over people through visuals or images of popular figures in the media.”

This methodology is meant to provide an experience that transcends the usual viewer-art relationship, especially paintings with human subjects. Reggie says the mirror image he creates forces the viewer to look deeper “behind” the subject, and oftentimes view a painting more than simply as a portrait of a person.

Reggie and his art caught the eye of the Indonesian public when some of the galleries he exhibited in began videotaping his creation process. Many of these videos are now available online.

In most of them, Reggie is seen making inkblot-styled paintings of famous pop culture figures, including Marilyn Monroe, The Beatles and Mick Jagger, among others. The familiarity of these characters, coupled with Reggie’s very distinctive style, creates something that is easily eye-catching, with a taste of pop art, even for those not usually interested in the arts.

(Photo courtesy of Reggie Aquara)

For Reggie, his inkblot approach is far from being his most fulfilling one; and that sense of never being satisfied is something that drives him.

“Ever since my college days studying art at the art and design school and taking fine arts classes at ITB [the Bandung Institute of Technology], I have always been most concerned with figuring out new techniques to painting,” he says. “Like modernist painters who consider the discovery of a new methodology their main source of artistic motivation, I do it with the same never-satisfied spirit that I feel when I do ‘regular’ paintings.”

To create his paintings, Reggie substitutes the Rorschach ink with acrylic or oil paint. Sometimes he also utilizes oil on canvas that is laid upon a wood panel, in order to slow down the paint’s drying process before it is meshed together. He does this on canvas, which he says gives it a thicker texture, “like painting impasto.”

“It changes the usual Rorschach query of ‘what do you see?’ into something that is being asked by a piece of art,” he says.

Reggie’s first Rorschach-styled piece remains his favorite, which he says perfectly adopts this new “culture” of art in its methodology and technicality. It symbolizes a significant step forward from his previous realist style, which featured film captures and embedded subtitles.

The artist considers his inkblot-style paintings a personal journey that others can take with him.  He calls it a journal or a book of his life. Reggie plans on experimenting even more, and is readying more pieces for an upcoming exhibition.